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Exhibition of Barbara Benish and Adéla Matasová Klenová Castle, April 30-June 8

If I am a good researcher, Barbara Benish has known Czechoslovakia since 1979, when she was in her 21st year. And since that time, she has taken found objects, which are then made use of in her assemblages. Besides these, the rest of this exhibit is framed from beams and boards, that came from a razed baroque building in Prague. Most of the technique exhibited here works indeed differently from that used for her exhibit at Prasna Brana two years ago. At that time the form was installation; today the works are complicated formations starting with linocuts, which are then xeroxed, enlarged and collaged, painted and layered with pasted pieces.

Certainly differentiating technique, isn’t different, say, from the mode of artistic intelligence that Rudolf Arnheim speaks about. Or that in the background is always another divergence (after all a seemingly distinct) progression: myth. Surely this way enlightens our present times, and presents an actual visual way of combining high art with low, kitsch with objects of mass consumption, the sacred with the profane, mysterious and hermetic with the banal, smiling and ordinary.

Perhaps it is the persistent impression of “women’s hand work”, and the intentionality of function that is maybe true here, in that a California reading is a tolerant and loving patchwork like Lyotard dreams about, a peaceful model of contemporary plurality and future culture, which is part of the attraction for Barbara Benish. And so we come to this presentation of the Revelations of St. John not like a decisive prophecy of the Last Judgement, the breaking of the seven seals, and the frightful punishment of the Ram, but in substance like a happy relief, recounting the end of Babylon and the founding of the New Jerusalem. It is a storytelling, in which neither the “fire mixed with blood”, nor “John devouring the book”, which was “sweet like honey” in the stomach and then made bitter, nor the “burning lake” were ineffectual deterrents, and in which instead we hear promises , such as: “I will eat from the Tree of Life in Paradise”. Barbara Benish with her artist’s vision undeniably depicts the opportunity for sweet death which will nevermore exist, nor woe, nor accusations, nor pain, nevermore will there be what was in the past. And over each quotation from primitive culture and what may be Jugendstyl decoration, we feel in this intense background, the universal powerful vision of William Blake. This similarity of truth in what is told (especially for us) in Europe, is being born in blood towards the New, meanwhile unable to see Jerusalem.


Josef Hlaváček, Rector of the Academy of Applied Arts, Prague, 1994

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